Wednesday, 18th July 2012
‘Fantastic’ to bring flame to Kent, says Dame Kelly Holmes
Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes said she hoped the 2012 Games would inspire future generations of British champions after carrying the Olympic flame on its latest leg.
The double Olympian, who won 1500m and 800m gold in Athens in 2004, lit the torch at Tonbridge Castle in Kent in front of hundreds of schoolchildren and well-wishers.
She earlier circuited the grounds of the castle with 85-year-old Frank Verge who carried the Olympic flame as a 22-year-old through parts of Kent in the 1948 torch relay.
The stop at Tonbridge, close to Dame Kelly’s home in Hildenborough, was a late addition to today’s route after she voiced disappointment that it would not pass by.
Afterwards, the 42-year-old athlete said: “It has been absolutely fantastic to bring some of the Olympic spirit and the flame to Tonbridge.
“It wasn’t going to be here but the local council pulled out the stops to get this up and running. These moments, when the flame gets lit, are iconic.
“These Games have always been about youth and inspiring them and future champions. The schools here today have built up a momentum towards the Olympics, and it has become real to them now.”
Dame Kelly’s mother Pam Thomson was among the crowds. She said: “It made me go all goose-bumpy to see her carrying the flame in front of all these people.
“It’s fantastic because hopefully this memory will live with these schoolchildren forever.”
Dame Kelly and Mr Verge were among 137 torchbearers who carried the flame today as it travelled 108 miles through East Sussex and Kent.
It started off this morning at Pavilion Gardens in Brighton at 7.20am, with 17-year-old Zachary Narvaez acting as the first torchbearer of the day.
He was nominated by Brighton and Hove City Council, through the Locog programme, for setting up a charity to raise funds for hospice and cancer research.
By the time it reached Tonbridge, schoolchildren had been worked up by the excitement of the occasion as pop music thumped from loud-speakers and dancers gyrated on stage.
As Mr Verge recalled his first time acting as a torchbearer, he said today eclipsed it because of the sheer volume of people who turned out in support.
He said: “When I first carried it, the torch came ashore at Dover and it was a dry and warm day. People clapped and cheered, and it was really exciting.
“But this overlaps it because of the mass of people, and of course, Kelly Holmes who was the star attraction.”